Flora v. United States,
362 U.S. 145 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Flora v. United States, 362 U.S. 145 (1960)

Flora v. United States

No. 492, October Term, 1957

Argued May 20, 1958

Decided .June 16, 1958

Rehearing granted June 22, 1959

Reargued November 12, 1959

Decided March 21, 1960

362 U.S. 145


Under 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(1), a Federal District Court does not have jurisdiction of an action by a taxpayer for refund of a part payment made by him on an assessment for an alleged deficiency in his income tax. The taxpayer must pay the full amount of the assessment before he may challenge its validity in an action under §1346(a)(1). Flora v. United States, 357 U. S. 63, reaffirmed. Pp. 362 U. S. 146-177.

(a) The language of § 1346(a)(1) can more readily be construed to require payment of the full tax before suit than to permit suit for recovery of a part payment. Pp. 362 U. S. 148-151.

(b) The legislative history of § 1346(a)(1) is barren of any clue to the congressional intent on this issue; but that section is a jurisdictional provision which is a keystone in a carefully articulated and quite complicated structure of tax laws; since enactment of its precursor in 1921, Congress has several times acted upon the assumption that § 1346(a)(1) requires full payment before suit; and any evidence of a contrary intent is too weak and insubstantial to justify destroying the existing harmony of the tax statutes. Pp. 362 U. S. 151-158.

(c) In establishing the Board of Tax Appeals (now the Tax Court), Congress acted upon the assumption that full payment of the tax assessed was a condition precedent for bringing suit for refund in a District Court, and it chose to establish the Board as a different forum where the validity of an assessment could be litigated without prior payment in full. Pp. 362 U. S. 158-163.

(d) To permit such a suit in a District Court would be inconsistent with the purpose of § 405 of the Revenue Act of 1935, which amended the Declaratory Judgment Act so as to except disputes "with respect to Federal taxes." Pp. 362 U. S. 164-165.

(e) To permit such a suit in a District Court would generate the very problems which Congress believed it had solved by § 7422(e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. Pp. 362 U. S. 165-167.

(f) A different conclusion is not required by the administrative practice prior to 1940, nor by a few inconsequential exceptions to

Page 362 U. S. 146

the otherwise uniform belief prior to 1940 that full payment had to precede suit in a District Court for refund. Pp. 362 U. S. 167-175.

(g) Requiring taxpayers to pay assessments in full before suing in a District Court will not necessarily subject them to undue hardships, since they may appeal to the Tax Court without first paying anything. Pp. 362 U. S. 175-177.

246 F.2d 929 affirmed.

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